Terminology Management

Terminology management is the process of researching, choosing, defining, updating, and maintaining key terms in the local language relevant to a business, product, or service provider, public or scientific institution.

The resulting term base or glossary aims to create consistent benchmarks for what terms are used in what context or situation. This serves as a reference for anyone creating, editing, or translating content, to eliminate confusion about meaning and to ensure terminology is standardized where required.

What is terminology?

Terminology is the language standards defined within a particular industry, sector, or within a specialized use case, such as user interface (UI) or user experience (UX) design. The consistent use of terminology conveys meaning to the user or buyer and, when reused consistently, helps the user understand intent and context.

Depending on the use case, terminology can be categorized by its degree of technicality and comprehensibility. Copywriters, translators, or developers, use the term base as a guide when developing or communicating about a product or service. In an ideal scenario, they establish terminology early in the product development process and add it to the term base.

Terminology management drives a systematic approach to keeping business, brand, or topic-related language clear, to the point, and consistent in delivery. This is done with the help of terminologists and translators, often in collaboration with marketing and public relations departments.

What are some best practices for terminology management?

Terminology management is a vital task. The development of a term base follows these best practices and is used consistently across an organization or product line. Best practices include:

Content and term sourcing

In order to successfully manage terminology, first respective glossaries containing relevant terms and term definitions need to be created. To do that, relevant content needs to be sourced and agreed upon across all stakeholders. This content will serve to define the terms of interest which serve as primary and key terms for the glossary or term base.

Creating a glossary or term base

After sourcing the key terms, the glossary or term base can be created with respective definitions, guidelines for style, and use. This can be a time-consuming process, as some definitions can vary on a contextual basis.

Curating a glossary or term base

The next step is the curation of the glossary or term base. This consists of eliminating all those terms that will always carry the same meaning independent from context or use. This results in lists of synonyms for the specific term that can be used or should be avoided.

Approving a glossary and term base

The terminologist, in collaboration with marketing or public relation departments, project owners, or other stakeholders, goes through the glossaries or term bases to get approval or remarks for a final edit of those, before obtaining final approval.

Once the term base is completed and receives authorization for use, it is ready to be distributed and applied among content creators and users.

Translating a glossary or term base

The translation of a glossary or term base takes place in close collaboration with the original terminologist to ensure that the translated terms are accurate, concise, and context-relevant. This translation can happen simultaneously in many languages or successively. Translation of a term base into a new target language may be the first step in preparing a product or service for translation.

Maintaining and updating a glossary or term base

The maintenance and continuous updating of a term base are substantial. The terminologist will add relevant terms, sometimes exclude previously used terms that are no longer relevant, and apply updates to the glossary or term base.

This allows implementing changes driven by trends, new developments, and technologies, among other things. It also enables the re-invention of terms according to real-time changes in the social, cultural, or political sphere.

What are the advantages of terminology management?

Terminology management ensures the consistent use of language, in context, and consistent meaning and voice for the respective audience. It helps educate users, consumers, clients, staff, and the general public about the intended and correct use of terms in connection to products, services, brands, and topics.

Terminology management helps to mitigate risks and can have a positive impact on industries and experiences. It helps to minimize any misunderstandings and supports the creation of a loyal community that is fluent in the specific use of respective terms.